You know those t-shirts that read I’m Huge in Japan or I’m Famous in Bollywood? Well, mine should read I’m NMI in the U.S.!! Yes, I am NMI or No Middle Initial – as seen on certain formal documents. The truth is that I never questioned not having a middle name until I moved here.
Americans are very proud of their middle names. So proud, in fact, they’re featured everywhere: business cards, resumes, e-mail signatures, Facebook names, checks, credit cards, online order forms etc. It is especially strange for the French when announcing the birth of a baby: “Kelly Michelle was born on April 16”. The first time I saw this I thought “wow, Kelly Michelle is a bit of an odd name and it’s a long one too!” until I was explained that Michelle is the middle name. Not a second name like in France. A middle name.
After much reflection over the years on my middle-name-challenged persona, I came to the conclusion that a middle name must be like a second self; an entity that does not exist but follows you all your life. Almost like a twin for that matter! Gasp! Could it be one’s evil twin? An evil twin you will never get to interact with, touch or see. It only lurks in the dark side of your name by peeking its initial for the whole world to see and waiting to pounce at you like a monster during meet and greets. We all know the Force has a dark side – so could the all-powerful middle initial be that dark side of the Force? Are Jedis of the U.S. just bound to always fight their dark side creeping up their very own names?
Americans like to use their middle names in any situations especially when being introduced. “Hi my name is Jack M. Smith, nice to meet you.” I always wondered why people like to introduce themselves this way and why emphasize one’s chopped-up-evil-twin? I was really left panicked, sweaty and paralyzed when one day I met a man who told me: “Hi, I’m S. James Knox.” My eyes opened as wide as they could and I thought “OMG, his evil twin took over, it won. Set the Force free!”. I was ready to grab my lightsaber until I realized I was holding a glass of wine and thought that for once I might have had too much. I still don’t have an explanation as to why one would make mention of an initial, especially when it’s meant for a first name. If you have decided to use your middle name as your first, why still include your first initial during introductions?
Now don’t get me wrong, the French also have several names. They’re just not middle names. They are second – and sometimes third – names. As a young child, when I found out that my grandparents had several names, first I couldn’t understand what they were for, and second, I got instantly jealous. It is not rare for a child to receive his parents or grandparents first names as second or third or fourth names – all separated with a comma. These names are not mentioned anywhere other than on official documents, passports or driver’s licenses. Someone with three names like Carole, Madeleine, Marie is not uncommon. Now this person would never introduce herself other than “Carole” and would never use an initial between her first and last name. While second, third or fourth names are rarely mentioned and are possibly even unimportant in the French society, these names hold great sentimental family values for the people who wear them because of the ancestors they channel.
What’s most common in France is to give a baby a compound name. Depending on the family, city where you live, social status etc. compound names are popular. Such names are made up of two first names separated by a dash. However, strange and ugly ideas can happen to the best of us and children end up with creations like: Marie-Charline or Charles-Edouard. I’ll just leave it at that, I think we all agree here.
So here we are, in 2000, as I am getting ready to send applications for Master’s programs all over the U.S. All applications were filled the same: middle initial and/or name left blank. Answer letters from the various Colleges started to arrive and oh! surprise… someone created a middle initial for me! Holy Jamie Lee Curtis, what’s going on? I was left astonished in my apartment complex lobby, letter in hand, unopened, staring at my own name on the envelope with its evil dark side sneaking up on it. A big capital C. Christopher, Connor, Carson, Chase, Cain… what is it? Could it be Clarence? I was dying to know what had been entered in the Northwestern University computer that was apparently too old to handle moi! It was a big hit to my middle-name-therapy I was undertaking with myself at the time. Does one have to have a middle name to be accepted? Will computers in the future assign random middle names to people like me? Worst, are we all doomed to get an evil twin grafted without putting up a fight? I expressly requested from Northwestern to remove the big scary C to which they replied that their computer could not handle such a request and that they were updating their system. In any case, the letter was a refusal letter and I was very happy to oblige after all.
If you’d like to help with my middle name C search, all bets are on. For now, it shall be C-3PO.